Wednesday, July 17, 2002

Talk Turkey

The independent secular democracy spanning the Bosporous is more and more in the news these days. This is nothing new, for Turkey, for many reasons, is a very important geopolitical link between East and West. Its principle city, Istanbul, ancient Constantinople, capital of the Ottoman Empire, is actually two cities: Is, which is in Europe, and Stamboul, which is in Asia. But it is a crucial link for far more reasons than its mere geography.

Historically the Ottoman Empire was the last gasp of Islam's greatness. Istanbul was the seat of the Caliphate, and it is the dream of OBL and his followers to revive the Caliph, i.e., a single ruler over the entire Islamic world. But the Turks willingly gave up the Caliphate, and the reasons for it are crucial to one's understanding of what is about to happen in that part of the world.

At the end of the Great War in 1918, the Ottoman Empire, which had the terrible misfortune to be on the losing side in that conflict, was dismembered by the victorious countries, otherwise referred to as the "Colonial Powers." Britain and France took especially large chunks of it in the Middle East and North Africa, but that is a story for another day. How Turkey, and the Turkish people handled this period of their history is very instructive if one is to understand what is about to happen in the region.

Basically, the new leader, Kemal Ataturk, wanted to start with a new slate. He, and his people (most of them) realized that they needed a big change, that this world domination thing had not worked out so well for them, as their Empire had been in decline for centuries (ever since, in the mid-17th century, Caliph Suleyman the Great had failed to take Vienna, things had been going downhill for them.). Seeing that Imperial aspirations were more of a problem than they were worth, further pretense to empire was expressly renounced. Since empire and domination of other nations are central tenets of Islam, they went secular. Not only did they remove religion from government, they even went so far as to make the wearing of traditional clothing a crime! In modern Turkey, it is rare to see anyone wearing a fez, let alone a turban. They even use toilet paper.

When you read that they are "the only Islamic country in the coalition," you must realize that, while they may look Islamic to us, based upon their demographics, the Islamic world doesn't see them that way. While the American people mostly eschew the lessons of history, the Islamic world does not. Indeed, they largely live in the past, and many of their aspirations revolve around repeating the past. Turkey, as a secular state, does not satisfy our enemies as an Islamic State. However, Islam is its own nation, therefore geography and nationalism have a different meaning to them than they have to Western sensibilities.

So when I read in today's Washington Times that: "Turkey is a lone example of what the Islamic world could yet with luck become", I see a basic disconnect between the Eastern and Western mentality. We see a secular future for the Muslims. Like we did the Soviets, we want to make them more like us, so they don't want to kill us any more. But the Russians had a long history of wanting to become more western. Islamists see secularization as destruction. To their mindset, when we say that we want them to become more modern, like Turkey, they hear our call for their termination.

Islam means total submission (to God). Read their book. The Koran is a rulebook and a guidebook. The point is to dominate the world. what can't be dominated must be destroyed. The "moderates," as told in Friday's New York Times say: "Well, of course I hate you because you are Christian, but that doesn't mean I want to kill you."

At the dawn of the last millenium, we fought a defensive war against Islam, a war we eventually lost. ( The Crusades). We may be, at the dawn of this millenium, be about to do the whole thing again. Let's hope that we win it this time.